Conditions, pressure of scoreboard causing chasing failures: Dinesh Karthik
Dinesh Karthik looks certain to play the game against Sri Lanka. (AFP Image)

HEADINGLEY: As the last few games of the World Cup 2019 have proven, teams batting second are having a tough time chasing totals, especially those over 300. In the last week, India, West Indies, Bangladesh and New Zealand have tried but all fallen short. In the business end of the tournament, games are being played on used pitches and the bowling team’s ability to pick up wickets between Over 30 and 45 is pegging the batting side down.

India’s only loss of the World Cup owed to this. England pulled things back drastically after breaking the 138-run partnership between Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli to complete a 31-run win. India used the same tactic against Bangladesh, chipping away with wickets in the middle overs before Jasprit Bumrah closed out the match with consecutive wickets. ALSO READ: Against spirited Sri Lanka, India search best combination ahead of knockouts

For India, it might be a bit concerning that in all probability, they will again face England on Edgbaston, whose surface isn’t the quickest by any means. Having said that, regardless of teams batting first and scoring over 300, Dinesh Karthik reiterated India are good chasers and that sides being unable to chase down challenging totals owe to a combination of factors.

“I think it’s a bit of both. The conditions – obviously, when you’re batting first, it’s about seeing through the initial phase when the ball is new and then you have the ability to decide what the par score is and try and get there,” Karthik said.

“When you’re batting I think the wicket changes a bit, becomes slightly slower, helps the spinners a little bit. For a lot of the teams, they’re bowling cross-seam and the wicket has been a little up-and-down as well. It’s not been that easy to execute shots. And also this is a World Cup, so obviously there’s a bit of scoreboard pressure, and I think a lot of teams have fallen prey to that as well.”

“I think India is a team where there have been good chasers for a long time. I think we as a team believe that we’re good chasers, because that’s what we do day in, day out. And we’re a team that actually has the ability to handle pressure very well. We’d back ourselves to chase and get the totals that we believe we can achieve.”

India, despite qualifying for the semi-finals have a few concerns of their own – the biggest being their brittle and unsettled batting order which has caused a letdown in the final stages of the innings. Against Bangladesh, India began strongly, with Rohit Sharma continuing his sublime form scoring his fourth century of the tournament. At one stage, India were 180 without loss in 30 overs with the possibility of 400 lurking. But a flurry of wickets in the last few overs, led by Mustafizur Rahman finishing with a five-wicket-haul, kept India to 314/9.

“It depends first thing on the conditions. And also it depends a little bit on how many batsmen you have behind you. I think you have more freedom to play shots when you have people who can obviously play until the end,” Karthik pointed out.

“If you feel that it’s important that you stay – if you need to be the player to stay to the end, then you delay the inevitable and then make sure that you take on the bowlers at the stage where you feel that there won’t be any loss for the team. So, A, you need to play the conditions. And, B, obviously the skill sets of the bowler, and then you’ve got to assess what the situation is and what your team needs and then react accordingly.”

India’s match against Sri Lanka might be a dead rubber but the stakes are high. If they can beat Sri Lanka and Australia lose to South Africa, India will go top of the table. This means they play New Zealand at Old Trafford, a team that has been in the middle of a run with three straight losses. Hence, there might be a tiny or no space at all for experimentation.

“I think at the end of the day a few of the batters would want to have a good hit. Obviously at this point of time even the bowlers, for that matter, it’s important that they work on the things that they want to do,” Karthik reckoned. “I think there is scope for improvement in all aspects of our game. I think we’ve been playing a good tournament until now, but I’m sure personally each player would have some box to tick and I think we’ll all be looking to do that.

“I think every member in this 15 prepares every game believing that he can play. So we try and prepare like we’re playing in the 11. Obviously when they tell us we’re not playing, then obviously that’s when we know whether we’re playing or not. But up until then, we practice in such a manner that we are knowing we’re going to play in the 11.”